I'm betting I had the same impression as most of you when I saw the ads for Disney's new Emperors's New Groove flick. Frankly, It made me quite ill. It sounded quite stupid. The other thing that was different about this movie is that I've watched so much anime, that I hadn't even tracked Groove's production. All the animated features released in the last decade I researched quite extensively. Voices, songs, writers, directors, who was animating which character. In most cases I even bought the sound track and was right there singing along. This time I knew nothing.
So, it's a good movie. Despite the stupid name, it's very fun. Of course it has a wicked villian and her henchman ... at least one of them isn't a trio of singing wise cracking henchman. The sidekick is Crank, (rhymes with Bonk) and he's probably the highlight of the film. Voiced by Elaine's boyfriend from the last season of Seinfeld (I think that excluding maybe Terry Hatcher, every actor who did a guest spot on the show will be known in terms of their Seinfeld character instead of their actual name). He's right on the money as the big goofy sidekick. They poke fun at some many conventions with this guy, I laughed out loud countless times.
The star, however, is of course David Spade, who besides starring on the vomit inducingly bad Just Shoot Me sitcom on NBC (god bless Tivo) hasn't been doing much since Chris Farley died. Fortunately the writers apparently gave him room to read funny lines, but also improvise. Not since Robin William's Genie have I seen an actor more accurately have their comedy animated by Disney. Then again, if you loath Spade's whiney sarcastic stand up, you're gonna hate this movie.
The animation is really quite good, although during the Emperor's stint as a llama, he's very disturbing. They handled him well, but man, with that long neck and that stretched out face and Spade's voice, well, it's a crazy creature.
It looks to me also that Disney shaved the budget down to nothing compared to other recent theater outings. The special effects in this film are virtually nil. No wild panarama shots. No amazing CGI. I mean, the fx are there, but they are relatively subtle, and never jaw-droppingly impressive.
And the music: What's a Disney movie without a rousing musical soundtrack? Well, I guess its Groove. It isn't a musical. Tarzan was different as far as musicals go, but it did feature a great soundtrack (despite winning a grammy against South Park which frankly pushed the envelope much more entertainingly the little old Phil "I wish I was Peter Gabriel" Collins ever could have). Groove does have a reasonably cute Tom Jones Disco bookend, but its nothing that you'll leave be talking about when you leave the theater. And my last comment on sound, usually I see movies like this in a theater with a good sound system, but I caught this one at the local Holland 7, which boasts a sound system with approximately the same fidelity as a realaudio porno stream. So take this with a grain of salt: I thought the sound was lame. The voice acting was nice, and the surround sound was used nicely, but the music and sound effects never just got into your skin like Mermaid, Beast, Aladdin, Lion King, Hunchback, Hercules, and Tarzan did. It's flat. Then again, when the DVD is released I'll watch it on my home system and maybe rethink this judgement.
I'll leave the story summary short, because if you're still reading, you'll probably wanted to see the movie before you started reading my little review ;) Spade is the spoiled brat emperor. He wants to build his new summer home on a Peasants hill (played blandly by John Goodman). He runs amuck with his evil Jafar/Cruella advisor and is transformed into a llama. Thanks to Hercules style sidekick incompetance he accidentally ends up with the Peasant, and must work through his spoiled nature, turn himself back into a human, and reclaim his thrown.
As you might have noticed, there are so many pre-fabbed molds used in this movie that you might have expected me to hate it. But I didn't. The comedy is the fastest of any disney movie ever (even exceeding Aladdin which dragged until the Genie came along). The pacing is obviously designed for children, with major jokes and changes occuring constantly. It always feels rushed ... but it never gets boring.
If you like silly animated adventures, or just need a movie to take a kid to, this will do nicely.